Shells – The hard outer protective layer created by sea animals. If this was not miraculous enough, I sometimes wonder at the persuasion and perseverence with which humans perceive their goals. One such wonder is the Shell Museum at Mahabalipuram (Mamallapuram). A collection of more than 40000 different shells is what welcomes you there. Each shell unique in itself having a story to tell. It was definitely a sight to see these stories talking to each other and to people looking at them in a language of their own. All thanks to Mr. Raja Mohamed who spent 33 years of his life in gathering these shells from different parts of the world.
I remember, as a kid, I would always be curious to know more about shells, how they are formed, where they come from, what happens to them after a while, do they get decomposed too??? But because we were not introduced to either Google or Wiki then, could never get my doubts clarified. But after visiting the museum, have just been awestruck at the beauty of these little miracle bundles not to forget the answers I found for my silly doubts too.
Can’t find enough words to describe the feeling I had while I was going around watching the shells. There were a few that even made my imagination go wild. So much so that I ended up into my childhood fantasy of making up wild stories around few of the shells that I saw there. This is just a glimpse of my wild imagination.
There were a few (actually many) of those that amazed me too. There were the ‘Right Handed’ and the ‘Left handed’ ones. There were ones that looked like Giant Butterfly wings and also the tiny dot shells. There were the princely ones and the most regular ones too. There were the Turtle back shaped and also the Porcupine shaped ones. The rarest, unusual and the common ones too.
Then there was a set which displayed the World’s smallest shells. Truly fabulous. They were all supposed to be the most common ones, but seemed uncommon to me.
Also, there was something else apart from the shells that attracted my attention. Each Gallery had a descriptive of how these shells were formed.
And this was not the end of it. There was more to come. Not to boast about it, but I do take pride in being brought up in the City of Pearls, Hyderabad. Only till I headed to the next stop at the Museum. It was no less than a grandeur of pearls. I had goosebumps all over while I was having a look at them. Have grown up watching different sizes and varieties of pearls at our very own Charminar shops which offer a platter of pearls. But this turned out to be epic. Truly EPIC!!!
I remember, during my younger days, whenever we had visitors from foreign (For us anywhere outside AP / TELANGANA is considered Foreign), it was a ritual to take them around the city. And one of my favourite spots was of course Charminar. On the pretext of taking the guests around, we used to take shots at the Pearl shops around looking out for varieties of pearls.
I don’t know if someone said it earlier, but I would definitely want to say this, “what good is a Shell without its pearl?”. You will have to see it to believe it though.
We also got to know few ancient facts about pearls there.
We ended our visit with the Aquarium next to it which had the most beautiful fish collection, but a rather limited one. And then there is also a store which sells shells and pearls called ‘Mayabazar’ in the same complex. If you are a shell enthusiast, or if you have a thing for pearls or if you want to take away a few souvenirs for loved ones, this is definitely the place. So, the next time you are visiting places in South, near Chennai especially, do make sure you drop by this heavenly place.
Place – Indian Shell & Pearl Museum, Mahabalipuram
Location – Right on the way to Chennai from Pondicherry via East Coast Road. If you are taking the road, it might just take 2 hrs from Pondi to reach.
Entry Ticket – It costs Rs. 150/- for the Shell Museum, and Rs. 50/- each for the Pearl and Fish Aquarium. Photography and Videography allowed. Totally worth it.
Eateries – Not sure if food is allowed inside, but can definitely take water along with you. Especially if you are weak at heart and tend to drool away at the sheer sight of beautiful pearls.
Lessons from my SHELL & PEARL Museum visit
- It is alright to be surprised at times on a trip that is totally planned.
- Do not worry if you have to cut short on other places to see or things to do when you are on a trip. It is bound to happen. Else, there is no fun.
- When you come across a place where you are not sure whether to look around or focus on taking snaps, do not think twice. Keep looking around. Try to sneak in snaps in between. But make sure you enjoy the sight of the place when you are there.
- If you have good knowledge about shells and pearls (not in the literal sense though) do shop around for some of them. They will act as good souvenirs or gifts for people back home.
- Do make sure you come back and try to find out more about the place. You can rely on your folks (Moms, Dads, Grandmoms, Granddads, Uncles, Aunties or Friends) or our very own Google and Wiki.
- And last but not the least – try this one “She sells sea shells on the shore.” Let’s see how many times you can say it without fumbling!!!